05 August 2009

Blogging and Academia

Wait--You think people actually read the archives of blogs? I think most readers think of a blog as being only as good as its most recent post.
GayProf at "Does blogging hurt or help an academic career?" Historiann
I hope people read blog archives, or I'm wasting my time. Except that I'm not.

On the one hand, my blog is designed around its archive. I'm slowly working through an old, classic, ideologically oriented survey of American history--A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn--alongside a much newer, ideologically motivated, and almost entirely ignored within academia, survey of American history--A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. If and when I ever finish these two books, Patriots and Peoples will have become a comprehensive resource for students of American history.

My blog started as a notebook, and it serves that purpose. The more I write, the easier writing becomes. My academic writing had become almost non-existent due to more than a decade of part-time teaching supported, in part, with income from an entirely non-academic avocation. However, being the way I am, even that has an academic aspect. One of my high school friends was complaining about that--or laughing at me--after he asked a question about the history of chess the other night, and then said, "don't answer that." "James can never say yes or no, but must give us a lecture," Brett noted. This personality quirk observed by the kid that used to poke me in the back with his pencil in George Chalich's U.S. History class more than thirty years ago reveals that my long-windedness to make a simple point is not a consequence of graduate school, but its cause.

I started blogging because any writing stimulates more writing, especially when that writing attracts one or two readers. If I'm not writing, I get depressed.

I'm not struggling with the tenure and promotion questions, and the place of blogging within, that is the focus of much of the conversation at Center of Gravitas and Historiann. My career in academia is hanging by a thread, and proceeds course to course, each with a separate contract. If I get good teaching evaluations, another contract comes along. Fail once, and I'm slinging tacos at some fast food outlet in your town. Adjuncts don't have the pleasure of worrying over blogging in the annual review. Even so, the issues Historiann and GayProf raise about blogging and academic work are central to both. Both of their blogs reveal the scholar's mind even in stories of fishing trips or Facebook. Not that such writing necessarily meets the terms of service or scholarship as understood by university promotion and review committees. But the tremendous output of both these bloggers merits some consideration as a worthy endeavor for professors. Other blogs, such as Larry Cebula's Northwest History, appear central in their focus and content to the author's professional work. The possibility that such a blog could be credited in promotion decisions should be kept open. Not all blogging is the same.


Adam said...

I am happy to have found your archives -- as, along the lines of what Lendol Calder has suggested, I am teaching Zinn and Schweikart and Allen side-by-side in a university setting.

I'll read more and comment on my experiences as I go.

James Stripes said...

Hi Adam,

Thanks for letting me know. Good luck teaching the two texts together. I look forward to conversations with you, and perhaps some of your students as well.

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